Analysis: District 1 would save by joining Shaftsbury school district


SHAFTSBURY -- Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union CFO Rick Pembroke made a presentation to the Shaftsbury school board on his findings in regard to the Shaftsbury ID District, which had been given to the board in June.

Pembroke said he had been hoping to attend a meeting to answer questions about the data, but had been unable until this past Wednesday. In his report, Pembroke stated that if the Shaftsbury School District absorbed the, at the time, 30 students from Shaftsbury District One, who have for more than 100 years been considered part of the North Bennington Graded School District, it would cause the tax rate in Shaftsbury to decrease marginally from about $1.23 per $100 in appraised property value to around $1.19, and the tax rate in district one to decrease more significantly, from almost $1.45 to just over $1.20.

Pembroke said he had done a similar analysis several years ago, at the request of a previous board. "This is a snapshot, at that point in time, based on your FY15 budget. At that time there were 30 students in District One, I will guarantee you there is probably somewhat more or less at this point."

Pembroke said the driving force behind the decrease is the difference in cost per pupil between the Shaftsbury and North Bennington districts.

Effectively, the ID district residents would save money by being part of the Shaftsbury school district, which has a lower cost per equalized pupil. Cost per equalized pupil is one of the factors the state uses when calculating the education tax rate.

Pembroke said he had worked with Shaftsbury Elementary School principal Jeffrey Johnson and SVSU director of special education Wendy Pierce to determine who much accepting those 30 students would cost the school in increased budget.

According to Pembroke's analysis there are three special education students within that population, which would increase the special ed student teacher ratio in Shaftsbury from 12-1 to 13-1, which is still considered reasonable by state and national data.

"The only real increase [in students] is in sixth grade, where they get to 28 students," said Pembroke, "which some would argue could get by with one teacher, but Jeff believes, and I don't think anybody really disputed him, that it would make more sense to split that class up. So, we added a teacher there."

Pembroke said he also added a second kindergarten para-educator to the projected budget.

The total cost for the projected staff increases was $94,558.

Pembroke also estimated that the additional cost of materials would be about $16,050, and the district's SU assessment, which is based on number of pupils, would increase by $34,989.

After discussion, Pembroke found that the school bus routes should be able to be rerouted to pick up the students without any additional costs.

Despite these increases in cost, Pembroke said the key number, which is cost per pupil, will decrease slightly in Shaftsbury and decrease significantly for the ID district.

The reason for the one cent difference in the projected tax rates between Shaftsbury and the ID district, said Pembroke, is that the state calculates the ID district's common level of appraisal separately from the rest of the town. "If this was to come to fruition," said Pembroke, "I would assume that the state of Vermont will eventually collapse those both into one and you'll have one CLA, you won't have two different taxing districts."

Board member Dave Durfee pointed out that by the 2015-2016, which would likely be the earliest this could come to fruition, the school already plans to have two teachers for each grade level, meaning an additional teacher wouldn't need to be hired just because of the ID students, which, as he said, would lower the tax rate even further for Shaftsbury. "By making this change, we could spend even more money than we currently do on programs, without impacting the tax rate," said Durfee.

Pembroke clarified that, based on the math he did earlier this year, the district could spend an additional $168,000 each year while keeping the tax rate level, if this were to go through.

One member of the ID district, who identified herself only as Joyce, was in attendance at the meeting, and said, "I've been in the district here for over 40 years. The townspeople, both in Shaftsbury and D1 have discussed it, wondering why isn't that money coming into this district? We live in Shaftsbury. Our taxes go to another town, to a private school. They chose to close that school down and do this. Now, I want my taxes to go to Shaftsbury."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB


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